During my first year of campus ministry, a senior minister told me that the average tenure for women is three years. I have observed this to be true. Many young women have a passion to serve in ministry, and do so wholeheartedly and effectively, but few last more than five years.
I’m currently in my 15th year. I was made for kingdom work, and I love pouring into college students, investing in a ministry that God is using to strengthen and transform young lives. But that wasn’t always my plan.
By the time I was 20, I knew I wanted to go into campus ministry—I just didn’t expect to stay very long. My plan was to finish seminary at 23, work full-time for 5 years, and then have children and be a stay-at-home mom. While I love dreaming and making plans, I’ve found it’s a lot more fun to live my life surrendered to Jesus, letting his Spirit and wisdom guide me. Getting married and starting a family happened later than I expected, and along the way I realized that I didn’t have to choose between being a mom and a minister. God made me to be both.
To help other women stay in ministry for the long haul—even with a family—I often offer these six tips:
1. Establish a Sustainable Workload.
As a young minister, I was single. I didn’t have a family to take care of, and I could do ministry all day and every evening if I wanted to. This is true of many people first getting into ministry. In their eagerness, new ministers often establish patterns that simply aren’t sustainable for the long haul. In the name of ministry, they give and give.
The fact is that this kingdom work is important. If you’re working 60 hours a week, however, you’re likely creating an unsustainable ministry. As you regularly take on more hours, you’re adding more to your job description than can be handled in your actual hours. Additionally, you’re increasing your and your coworkers’ expectations of your job performance to an unsustainable level.
Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever give a little extra. As a young minister, I did have extra time to give, and I gladly spent extra time sharing life with the students. It was life-giving for me, and I was always clear that it was something extra—not expected work. If you set up these sustainable boundaries from the beginning, you’ll continue to have flexibility if your life circumstances change. Work in such a way that your ministry output can be sustained through changing seasons of life.